Main Street in downtown Sturgis, S.D., already was filling up with motorcycles on Wednesday (July 29), in anticipation of the start of the 65th annual Sturgis bike rally. So are the area’s campgrounds, according to the Rapid City Journal

The recession doesn’t seem to be affecting attendance, at least at the start of the weeklong event. 

David Boone, Sturgis city manager, said he has a gut feeling this will be a bigger rally than last year, both from the swelling rumble of bikes in town early this week and an uptick in preliminary city revenue numbers. 

Other city officials, including Mayor Maury LaRue and finance officer Fay Bueno, are more cautious. LaRue said he wouldn’t be surprised if rally attendance is down even from the 2008 rally, which at 414,417 bikers, was probably the smallest event since the 65th rally drew 525,250 in 2005. 

City rally director Brenda Vasknetz agrees that this year’s rally likely will draw more bikers than last year. She said many campgrounds are reporting increases in reservations. 

Buffalo Chip Campground owner Rod Woodruff said he expects another double-digit percentage increase in attendance. 

Black Hills Central Reservations manager Susan Johnson also predicts a rally at least as big as last year’s. She said reservations at campgrounds, hotels and other tourist sites are up 9% for the rally over the same time last year. 

“I’m not saying that’s how the rally is going to end up,” Johnson said. “I’m saying it’s going to be a hair ahead.” 

She said this year’s rally could halt the slide that began after the rally in 2005.